U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Todd Young, R-Indiana, have made it their mission to help students get career and technical education skills. Earlier this year they introduced the “21st Century Strengthening On Programs that Cultivate Learning Approaches for Successful Students Act," which would give federal funding for equipment for career and technical education programs and give teachers more training on how to use the equipment.
Statistics show that through 2025, an estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers.
The Gillibrand-Young legislation would amend the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to give greater priority to funding for maker education, to teach young people the skills needed for high tech jobs.
“Technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters and computerized machine tools are transforming American manufacturing and increasing the need for specialized training for manufacturing jobs," Gillibrand said.
“Many businesses and manufacturers are struggling to find qualified employees,” she added in a recent address to staff, students and guests at Charles D'Amico High School in Albion. “This (bill) would give students the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to get good paying jobs in the high-tech manufacturing sector. ... These jobs are very important and we rely on them every day, whether it’s an engineering job, whether it’s to help to repair after a hurricane or whether it’s a high-tech manufacturing jobs here in Western New York.”
David Heminway, a 1976 graduate of Orleans-Niagara BOCES' machine tool program, and the current supervisor of skilled trades for the New York State Canal Corporation, offered his thoughts on the bill to the Albion assembly.
“I really hope this opens people’s eyes up about what career and technical education can do for students. Today’s workforce is very competitive and demanding and this will give students an advantage when they leave high school or go on to college,” he said.
The career and technical education programs at the Orleans/Niagara BOCES have grown 10 percent in the past five years and the student graduation rate is 98 percent, according to Joseph Steinmetz, career and technical education director. BOCES spends between $150,000 and $200,000 a year to provide students with the latest technology, he said.
"For the jobs of the future we really need the support, because technology is always changing and technology is very expensive. If you look at students who are in the fifth and sixth grade, those jobs aren't even invented yet," Steinmetz said. "We have to make sure we have the technology to keep students up to date in the training and skills they need so they can get good paying jobs. The jobs of the future are going to be skilled trades.”
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Mark Takano, D-California, and Susan Brooks, R-Indiana.